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Art Center Honors Leonard Lance and Tariq 'Black Thought' Trotter at 'UNDER THE STARS' Gala Tonight

Tonight, April 2, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey will hold its annual spring benefit "A Night Under the Stars" at the Art Center in Summit, featuring a seated VIP dinner with Live Auction followed by an After Party with cocktails, dessert and Silent Auction.

During the VIP Dinner, the Art Center will honor Congressman Leonard Lance for his important advocacy of the arts both in the state of New Jersey and across the country. In addition, the Art Center will award Tariq "Black Thought" Trotter of the hip hop band the Roots with the "Art Changemaker Award."

"We are excited to have Congressman Lance as our honoree," says Melanie Cohn, Executive Director of the Art Center, "as a national arts advocate, I have seen first-hand the important leadership that Congressman Lance provides in the arts. As a co-chair of the Congressional Arts Caucus, he is a national leader and reaches across the aisle in his support of the arts."

New this year, the Art Center will also award the "Art Changemaker Award," in support of an individual in New Jersey who represents the how art can be a positive force for social good. This year's award winner is Tariq Trotter, better known as Black Thought, an American rap artist and the lead singer/MC for the Philadelphia-based Hip-Hop group, The Roots, the house band for the new "Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Trotter has used his creative talent to support social issues including the AIDS epidemic; progressive education and health care for impoverished women and children.

Coinciding with the Night Under the Stars Gala is an early VIP opening of an exciting new exhibition in the Art Center's Main and Strolling Galleries: Recharging the Image: Selections from the Mott-Warsh Collection. Featuring artworks by nationally-recognized artists including Romare Bearden, Charles White, Carrie Mae Weems, Whitfield Lovell, Hank Willis Thomas, and Kehinde Wiley, as well as NJ artists Philemona Williamson and Nefertiti Goodman, this show examines how African-American artists have grappled with ways of representing personal, cultural and racial identity-and how they have taken ownership of this process.

Proceeds from A Night Under the Stars will be used to fund the Art Center's acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions as well as outreach initiatives, including arts enrichment for underserved children, seniors, and low income families.

Tickets for the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey 2016 Spring Gala are on sale now. Tickets for the full event which begins at 6pm and includes cocktails, VIP dinner and Live and Silent Auctions are $500. Tickets can be purchased for just the After Party portion of the evening featuring the Art Center's renowned Silent Art Auction which offers a wide range of contemporary art available for bid. The After Party begins at 8:30pm. Tickets are $60, $75 at the door. The Night Under the Stars Gala co-chairs are Terri Friedman of Livingston and Wolfgang Guenther of Summit. Gala Committee members include Heather Braun, Karen Caplan, Marie Cohen, Kelly Deere, Jill Draper, Estelle Fournier, Matt Gould, Betse Gump, Amy Knight, Leslie Dannin Rosenthal, Joanie Schwarz, Mara Simon, Susan Yarad and Elisa Zachary.

Event sponsors include Major Benefactor: Marie & Roy Alan Cohen, David Ellis Events, Betse & Frank Gump, Marité & Joe Robinson, Lacey & Ed Rzeszowski, Siegel + Gale, Audrey Wilf & Jane Wilf; Benefactors: Shirley Aidekman-Kaye & Ben Kaye, Amy Knight, Lindabury, McCormick, Estabrook & Cooper; Patrons: Millie & Jack Cooper, Siobhan Creem, Kelly Deere & Lee Shavel, David Dietze & Claire Toth, Carri & Keith Dolin, Terri & Mark Friedman, Tom Gordon & Joanne Cheung, Joanie Schwarz Portraiture, Kayla & Richard Pechter, Liz Skoler & Mark Becker, Paul G. & Ruth V. Steck.

The Visual Arts Center of New Jersey is located at 68 Elm Street in Summit, New Jersey, easily accessible by New Jersey Transit. Visit for more information about these exhibitions and programs. Adult and children's group tours are available throughout the year. Visit for more information. Gallery Hours: Monday - Wednesday and Friday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm; Thursday 10:00am - 8pm; and Saturday & Sunday 11am - 4pm. Please call 908-273-9121 to confirm holiday hours.

For more than 80 years, the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey has been exclusively dedicated to viewing, making and learning about contemporary art. Recognized as a leading non-profit arts organization, the Art Center's renowned studio school, acclaimed exhibitions, and educational outreach initiatives serve thousands of youth, families, seniors and people with special needs every year.

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